Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Charity - but with strings attached

Wed 16 Mar 2011 10:37am GMT / 6:37am EDT / 3:37am PDT

Should companies really use world events to generate new business?

The events of last week in Japan need no introduction.

The reaction from the video games community to the disaster has been curious to watch unfold news of that magnitude is rarely the business of the games media to comment on, yet because of the inextricable ties that the industry has to Japan, it seems that many feel drawn to do so.

Thankfully for the most part it's been done with good taste. Only one site I saw appeared to be angling for higher traffic numbers with text and images that were, frankly, offensive.

But the trend I find the most disquieting of the past few days is corporate charity.

There are several examples. The first goes something like this: Company A offers to donate all of the revenues from the sale of its app over a certain time period to relief efforts in Japan. Consumers buy the app and funds are donated to charity. Happy days.

But of course the side benefits are that the company generates positive PR for itself and also attracts a chunk of people to its game, pushing it up the charts and, potentially, seeding the brand with customers who might buy another game later on.

The second scenario goes like this: Company B runs some very successful social network titles and sees an opportunity to create extra premium in-game items, the revenues from which will all be handed to a charity partner to administer in Japan. Again, a nice gesture - consumers buy the new items, wanting to support the charitable drive, and money goes to the good cause.

Ultimately, there are many great ways to reach consumers these days, and new platforms and business models make this industry a massively exciting place to be. But surely some things are more important.

As before though, the company is promoting itself with positive press and attempting to push more people to its premium in-game items. It's feasible that people may use the charitable aspect as the reason to pay for social network goods for the first time and then become repeat customers.

Another scenario looks like this: Company C has staff located in a couple of countries, one of them being Japan. Thankfully nobody from the company is affected by the disaster, but, in a bid to help (and in addition to private donations), it offers to give $100 for every 100 people that 'Like' the company on Facebook.

Even better this time - consumers don't even have to part with cash, just click a button and up to $25,000 could be heading to those that need it. And of course Company C then finds itself very popular on Facebook, and subsequently has a marketing channel to a whole lot more prospective customers than it had before.

There is of course the inevitable question - if these schemes weren't being created, then perhaps companies wouldn't be donating at all, and surely therefore we shouldn't find fault? It's also clear that there are degrees of acceptability, and that some of these ideas are more palatable than others.

Plus, from the point of view of consumers, it's possible that those who buy a charity-related app or item may not have otherwise donated at all (for whatever reason) - or that those donations are in addition to the amount they'll donate directly - so again, perhaps we shouldn't complain?

After all, the idea that companies need to motivate people into giving isn't entirely lacking in merit, and without solid and extensive research on the subject it's impossible to argue for, or against, with any real conviction.

But while I don't doubt for a second the desire on the part of the people at these companies to offer support in this crisis - and potentially look to lead by example - seeking to benefit through the back door by positive PR or potential new business is crass.

If companies want to promote charitable donations, there's no need to do it by pushing for retweets, game sales, item sales or Facebook 'Likes'. Follow the lead of UK charity GamesAid and its chairman Andy Payne, who advertised a link to donate relief funds directly in a mailout earlier in the week. Or just make a donation without shouting about it.

Ultimately, there are many great ways to reach consumers these days, and new platforms and business models make this industry a massively exciting place to be.

But surely some things are more important.

5 Comments

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
I find companies trying to profit with the promise of donating money to charity if they get a certain amount of fans/promotion/marketing a bit crass, to be honest. I mean, I understand why they would do it and why just donate $100k off the bat if they can drum up a bit of publicity in the mean time, but it doesn't feel very far from profiting from someone else's loss, and it's hardly considerate to the people affected - i.e. "we'll give money to the Japanese aid movement, but only if you help promote our brand". Just feels a bit tasteless that some people in need may not get some helpful money because only 99,000 people tweeted about Bing, or what-have-you.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Graeme Struthers
Project Manager

9 0 0.0
"Follow the lead of UK charity GamesAid and its chairman Andy Payne, who advertised a link to donate relief funds directly in a mailout earlier in the week. Or just make a donation without shouting about it."

"like"

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Julien Wera
Marketing & PR Manager

9 0 0.0


Shall we imagine what would happen if companies wouldn't try to get any PR benefit in exchange for their donations... This scenario is very easy: the amount of donations wouldn't be anywhere near what they are now, and right now, they're still not enough. It's sad, but it's the truth. Without benefits in exchange for donations, most companies would never give as much money to support a cause, and even consumers would never give as much money.

"Seeking to benefit through the back door by positive PR or potential new business is crass"

Think about people who are dying from disease, starvation, or are waiting for a rescue operation to get them news of their lost children. Do you think that they care even one minute if the money that might allow to save hundreds of lives came from a company getting a benefit out of it ?

Donations are made to help and save people in need, and when these are the stakes, I really don't think a "My charity is better than yours" debate is relevant. When everything is done and people's live aren't in danger anymore, maybe we can get cerebral about all this.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Andrew Goodchild
Studying development

1,235 396 0.3

In the first case especially, there is a chance income is lost if a lot of those sales would be made anyway, in the case of the second, people may want to donate but end up forgetting without prompting, the third one I could like to get them to donate, and unlike next week or when they've sent a check, at the end of the day money goes to help people that probably wouldn't have otherwise, regardless of motive. The if the end result is medical supplies and food saving lives, who gives a damn if it's crass?

Posted:3 years ago

#4
Right now, I feel that international specialist aid, food, fuel and supplies are more vital than monetary donations.

If we can funnel these funds directly to the folks who are willing to go out/aid and provide search/rescue operations. - I think then there is a higher chance to save/find missing folks and help provide relief for folks scrounging for food supplies/fuel.

Problem is, the basic infrastructure is devastated within these areas, and there may be a situation where there is much worldly good will/influx of available funds, but these are not converted into Rescue aid, fuel or food or shelter fast enough due to the Japanese requirement for international aid to be totaly self sufficient.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now